The Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) has labelled the government´s so-called finch ‘research project “a big lie designed to help poachers to fill their aviaries with thousands of protected birds”.
The German eNGO said on Thursday that since the trapping season opened on 20 October its teams have documented and reported numerous cases of illegal bird trapping to the authorities.
Officers from the Environmental Protection Unit (EPU) and the Gozo Police caught 30 poachers red-handed and seized trapping equipment worth thousands of euros. 45 large clap-nets and 368 captured live birds were confiscated.
Charges being levelled against the poachers include the trapping of protected species, the simultaneous use of more than one clap-net, trapping on unregistered sites, possession of unringed live decoys and the use of illegal electronic bird callers.
The confiscated birds, mainly finches and some thrushes, were examined by a vet and later released, CANS reported.
While the eNGO praised the police for their rapid response it called on the government to ditch the questionable finch research project.
“Our data and observations clearly show that the large majority of trappers simply don´t care about science and abuse the system to pocket as many wild birds as possible,” CABS’ Axel Hirschfeld said.
CABS stressed that its teams had only checked a small fraction of the of the 3,984 ‘live capturing stations’ permitted by the government.
“It is therefore safe to assume a considerably high number of unidentified cases which involve hundreds of poachers and thousands of illegally trapped birds,” CABS Wildlife Crime Officer Fiona Burrows stated. “To bring more light into the dark figure and acquit itself of the suspicion of actively “protecting” the poachers the government should publish data about the number of persons charged by the police without our help,” Burrows proposed.
CABS said that its team will continue its monitoring operations on Malta and Gozo until the end of January, with the main focus in the next weeks being on documenting the trapping season for Golden Plovers.
It will also be monitoring the hunting ban in protected zones such as parts of the Mizieb woodland and Qawra Point, which was declared a nature reserve in September.